Tel Aviv city inspectors have issued more fines to businesses that were in violation of coronavirus regulations than the seven other cities with the highest infection rate combined, according to a report by the Knesset's Research and Information Center.
The report issued last week on fines imposed on businesses between April and June noted major disparities in enforcement among various municipalities.
Health regulations currently require that anyone working at a business wear a mask, that the business post a notice requiring anyone entering to wear one and that no one be served without one. The fine for businesses that violate the regulation is 1,000 shekels ($290).
Since April, individual citizens can also be fined for not wearing a mask in public. The current fine is 500 shekels.
The Knesset research center report was compiled at the request of the chairwoman of the Knesset’s coronavirus committee, Yifat Shasha-Biton of Likud. The center contacted 12 municipal governments where the rate of COVID-19 infections has been the highest, either at the beginning of the pandemic or as measured by new cases in the three days prior to the research.
Of the 12 municipalities contacted, four of them – Petah Tikva, Dimona, Bnei Brak and the West Bank settlement of Betar Illit – failed to respond. The responses of the other eight were as follows:
Tel Aviv, where 1,797 people tested positive, 750 fines were issued against businesses. In Jerusalem, there were 5,695 cases of infection, but the municipality said that although warnings had been issued to businesses, no fines were issued.
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In the settlement of Modi’in Illit as well, where there were 609 confirmed coronavirus cases, no one was fined. Staff at the local government offices there claimed that COVID-19 directives were not being enforced by municipal officials at all because they change “from day to day.” The staff even made the claim that since Modi’in Illit is in the West Bank and not in sovereign Israeli territory, regular legislative provisions do not apply there.
In Elad, northeast of Tel Aviv, there were 67 fines – two in April and 65 in June. In Ashdod, there were 20 fines, although not all of them were to businesses. Seven fines were issued in Ashdod in June and 13 in July, the municipality said, and 172 verbal warnings, along with five in writing, were also issued.
In the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon, where there were 466 COVID-19 cases, six fines were issued to businesses and in the neighboring suburb of Bat Yam, there were 33 fines. Beit Shemesh, west of Jerusalem, had eight.
The Israel Police –- which has the authority not only to fine businesses but also individual citizens for failure to wear a mask – issued 40,692 citations between April and the end of June and another 161 to businesses. As time has passed during the pandemic, the number of fines issued by the police has increased – from 625 in April to 5,341 in May, followed by a major increase in June to 34,726.